Manufacturers standardize, specialize, and ultimately automate the work in their conventional “downstairs factories.” “Industrializing” hourly work is an investment.
Today, white collar knowledge workers represent half of all employees. Yet little or no investment is made to industrialize their work.
As a result, forty percent of their activity is wasted and avoidable.
This opportunity is a tempting target for digital upstarts, activist investors and other outsiders. If you’re typical, you don’t notice.
WHY YOU’RE MORE PROFITABLE THAN YOU APPEAR – 5 BELIEFS ERODE 20% OF YOUR EARNINGS.
Conventional wisdom assumes that standardizing work in the “upstairs” factories of marketing, finance or order management is impractical or impossible. But downstairs factories once made the same claim.
Work is work. Industrializing the assembly of a car is vastly more challenging than industrializing a marketing campaign. But you don’t think of knowledge work that way.
All work has valuable, repeatable patterns, but few executives recognize knowledge work repetition.
YOU ACCEPT A CONVENTIONAL (AND FALSE) DIVISION OF WORK.
You let knowledge workers decide how to improve their operations. Their work is perceived as non- routine.
But analyze what knowledge workers do. You discover that two-thirds of their work is repetitive and similar. That’s valuable. Basic shop floor techniques — industrialization — can easily standardize these repetitious activities.
Long ago, craftsmen’s work on the shop floor was seen as “non-routine.” After standardization, productivity increased fifty-fold.
The same untapped wealth hides in plain sight in knowledge work.
YOU MISS THE CHANCE TO CREATE KNOWLEDGE WORK “FACTORIES.”
In the plant, waste like scrap material or machine downtime is obvious. Reducing it is inarguably valuable.
Knowledge work waste is less obvious. It is error correction, customer over-service or rework.
Point it out as avoidable waste. Knowledge workers will argue that they are preserving revenue and serving customers.
True. But industrialization eliminates the root causes and avoids these tasks.
If you’re typical, you accept these avoidable tasks as indispensable or even virtuous.
YOU LET “VIRTUOUS WASTE” ERODE HARD WON EARNINGS.
In a plant, knowledge accumulated over decades—the experience curve—is valued and documented. It is built into workflows, tools and work area design.
Employees change, but a factory can consistently produce with variance measured in parts per million.
In an office, the experience curve exists as unwritten “tribal knowledge.” These poorly documented assets are diminished each time a worker leaves.
New hires devise their own personal work methods. They reinvent individual experience curves.
YOU SQUANDER THE POWER OF THE KNOWLEDGE WORK EXPERIENCE CURVE.
When manufacturers automate, they begin by making the products and tasks simple and standard for machines to handle. This industrialization step is called “design for machinability.” It delivers higher productivity with fewer workers.
When knowledge workers automate, they simplify and standardize very little. They don’t industrialize.
They view much of their work as “non-routine,” and non-standard. Consequently, knowledge workers adopt core-technology but retain flexibility, inconsistency and workarounds.
CORE-TECHNOLOGY FALLS SHORT ON PRODUCTIVITY GOALS.
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Today, white-collar workers represent the majority of the workforce. Yet little investment is made to standardize their work. As a result, forty percent of activity is wasted, avoidable, or automatable. The Lab’s patented process discovery and data standardization solutions rapidly eliminate this waste, which hides in plain sight, erodes hard won earnings, and limits automation.
Standardization can create numerous competitive benefits to businesses - from the efficiencies gained in the manufacturing production line, to the massive, untapped productivity gains available to knowledge workers.
Formed in 1993 by alumni of the world's best-known consulting firms.
The Lab's founders had a different idea: create an approach using research into what has worked at real companies...
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